Council asset sales on the cards

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 10:56 31/07/2012

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The pressure is on the Christchurch City Council to sell some assets to fund its share of the rebuild, less than 24 hours after the release of the central-city blueprint.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee today reminded the council it faces a big bill for some of the public facilities in the blueprint, and it has options to deal with that.

At a breakfast for more than 200 businesspeople today, Brownlee did not directly call on the council to sell or partly sell some of its assets, but alluded to that.

He said there would be some challenges for the council.

The Government had to find support, as would AMI Insurance and the Earthquake Commission, amounting to ''big billions'' of dollars. It would contribute to some of the public building projects in Christchurch.

''The council is going to have to find a lot of funds,'' Brownlee said.

He congratulated the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce for putting options on the table that he thought the council should consider.

The business group has been encouraging the council to consider the sale or partial sell-down of its assets to lower the level of debt it is going to take on to finance its share of the city's reconstruction.

Brownlee said it would be a big debate about funding, and the difficulty for local leaders who had to make the decisions should not be underestimated.

The council owns completely or has majority stakes in four large companies - Orion, Lyttelton Port, Christchurch International Airport and Enable Networks.

It also owns outright Red Bus and City Care. The latter employs more than 1000 people around the country in roading and civic amenities maintenance.

Recent statistics show the city has investments worth $1.57 billion.

Brownlee said he was delighted with the acceptance the blueprint was receiving.

The Government would make announcements on its areas of responsibilities in the next months on the hospital, educational facilities and the innovation hub, which would be called the Advanced Technology Hub.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority would work with the council on prioritising the projects and discussing how they would be funded.

Asked when or if several government departments would shift into the city, Brownlee said all department heads in Christchurch had to seek approval from Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle before they took up their next lease.

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Brownlee declined to answer a question from Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder on how long it would take to have 80 per cent of the plan completed.

Brownlee said decisions had to be made on getting the work programme together.

A plan to build an Olympic city was not dissimilar, he said.

- The Press

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